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Drought Emergency: Marin County Residents Falling Short Of Water Conservation Goal

SAN RAFAEL (KPIX 5) – As the Bay Area and California face a major drought, water conservation efforts are falling short so far, according to water officials in a North Bay county.

The Marin Water District is asking customers to cut back on usage by 40%. But for this past week, customers of the only cut their consumption by 11%.

"It takes some time to change behavior. And we know that people are hearing the message. We believe that conservation levels will ramp up," said Jeanne Mariani-Belding, spokesperson for Marin Water.

Mariani-Belding said while it is hard to change behavior, conservation levels are slowly going up. This week, customers saved 11%, up from 8.9% two weeks ago.

The spokesperson said customers need to pick up the pace on conservation efforts.

"Conservation is critical during the summer months because typically we see water usage double," Mariani-Belding told KPIX 5.

Marin Water is the largest provider in Marin County, serving 191,000 people.

Last month, Marin Water's board adopted more than a dozen water restrictions that included limiting spray irrigation to two days a week, prohibiting outdoor watering between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m., and banning car washes at home.

Next month, the water board could add more restrictions, such as limiting spray irrigation down to just one day a week.

"I think it's very difficult for people like myself who have vegetable gardens where we grow food that we eat all year round. So it's impacting our food budget if we have to let all of those plants die," said Shirley Fischer, a Marin Water customer.

Fischer understands the urgency to save water, but believed the water district has gone too far.

"We've been putting buckets in the shower. We've been doing the 'if it's yellow, let it mellow' routine. But I don't think that 40% is going to be an attainable amount," said Fischer.

Marin Water said the 40% number is a district-wide goal. They acknowledged it's a high bar to set, but reminded people they are facing a historic drought.

A North Bay farmer told KPIX 5 the drought so bad that he's selling his calves. There's not enough water on his farm to sustain his herd of 120 cattle.

"We generally sell them in July, middle of July.  We're selling those calves on Monday.  So we're doing them about 45 days early.  And then from that point, we're probably going to cut back our cow herd between 20% and 30%," said Mike Giammona, a farmer at Millerton Creek Ranch.

Marin Water said they want to focus on educating the public about conservation.  But for people who violate the water restrictions, they could face fines of up to $250.

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